Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing All-New Hawkeye 2, originally released April 8th, 2015.
Drew: I’m sure many folks have forgotten Cursed, the one-season NBC sitcom about a man cursed with bad luck in its pilot episode, but I’ll never forget it. Not because it was particularly good — I’ve actually forgotten almost everything about it — but because of its abrupt title change. Suddenly, Cursed, the high-concept sitcom about bad luck had become The Weber Show, a series so generic, its most distinctive characteristic was apparently the presence of former Wings star Steven Weber. That was my first lesson in the dangers of a narrative tying itself to a limiting premise, a problem I’ve found to be relatively ubiquitous in modern culture. All-New Hawkeye is far from the disaster that Cursed was, but as issue 2 strains against the flashback structure that worked so beautifully in issue 1, I find myself wondering if that structure is more of a prison than a springboard. Continue reading →
Today, Ryan and Mark are discussing Avengers 43, originally released April 1st, 2015.
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown
William Shakespeare, Henry IV
Ryan: It has been said that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and history remembers figures like this with no small sense of disdain. However, what of those leaders who came to reign under the most noble of intentions, who yet were forced to make decisions universally agreed upon as damnable? Jonathan Hickman and Stephano Caselli have taken readers on a convoluted and bumpy road in Avengers, and along the way have raised some sticky questions in regards to morals under duress. In this penultimate issue, we see how the crown of an empire and the Damoclean burden of genius can incite or deter an extinction. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing All-New Hawkeye 1, originally released March 4th, 2015.
Spencer: It’s hard to escape the fact that our pasts, and especially our childhoods, play a defining role in our lives. That doesn’t mean that people can’t recover from troubled pasts, but simply that what we experience when we’re young tends to shape our personalities and color our perceptions of the world in significant ways. This is certainly true for Clint Barton, one of the two titular stars of Jeff Lemire, Ramón Pérez and Ian Herring’s All-New Hawkeye 1. Clint’s transformed from a troubled, abused child and thief to one of the world’s mightiest heroes, but there are still plenty of parallels between his past and his present, showing that, as much as things change, they still stay the same. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing New Avengers 30, originally released February 25th, 2015.
Spencer: Jonathan Hickman and Dalibor Talajic’s New Avengers 30 reads a bit like a textbook on multiversal theory. It’s about as dry as beef jerky, and is focused so strongly on explaining every minute detail about the Ivory Kings that it largely fails to address why they’re doing what they’re doing. The information contained within its pages will likely prove important as Secret Wars grows closer, but for the moment, New Avengers 30 feels like an issue that highlights the greatest weakness of Hickman’s Avengers books: a focus on plot that supersedes “story” or characterization. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Hawkeye 21, originally released February 4th, 2015.
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…
Justice Potter Stewart
Drew: I’ve never been a fan of classifications in art. I could go on at length about how sub-subgenres eventually become too specific to have any utility, while broader classifications face the opposite problem of being to general, but my real issue is that our definitions fall apart under scrutiny. We tend to accept the kind of “I know it when I see it” definition of basically every category we have, from gender to genre, but most working definitions have to allow for so many exceptions that they lose all meaning. Take “superhero” for example. We all have a lose idea of who a superhero is, what they do, how they act, but to try and pin down the definition reveals that none of those things are fixed. Are they heroic (courageous, noble, selfless)? Many are, sure, but there are plenty of antiheroes muddying up any moral definition. What about superpowers? Again, lots do, but with so many non-powered superheroes, it’s hardly a criteria. The closest I can come up with is based on our relationship to superheroes — namely, that we expect their actions to lead to their success. In that way, I’d like to posit Clint Barton — particularly as depicted in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye — as an antisuperhero. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Avengers 40, originally released January 14th, 2015.
The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Drew: I think it would be fair to say that Dostoevsky’s polyphonic style — one built upon the perspectives of an array of characters — is antithetical to the notion of the hero’s journey. Indeed, Dostoyevsky’s philosophies (as articulated in the quote above) suggest that there’s an active tension between caring about an individual and caring about humanity at large. I’ve always been partial to the depth of understanding achieved by sticking with one protagonist — especially when it comes to comics — which has made me wary of the kind of expansive, Dostoyevskian scope of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers. In my mind, a tight focus on a single character more accurately reflects how we experience the world, but with Avengers 40, Hickman makes a compelling case for how his dense interconnectednessreflects how the world actually is. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Ryan are discussing Daredevil 11, originally released December 24th, 2014.
Forget the self and you will fear nothing…
Carlos Castaneda, The Active Side of Infinity
Drew: What would you say defines who you are? Without getting too specific, I think most people would agree that their identity can be loosely described by their tastes, values, sense of humor, intelligence, and interactions with others — that is to say, their everyday state of being. Someone is considered kind or funny or smart because they are kind or funny or smart most of the time. Fictional characters, on the other hand, aren’t defined by their everyday state of being; instead, their mettle is tested through conflict — some kind of extraordinary circumstance that demonstrates who they really are. Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil has been all about defining Matt by putting him through the wringer, largely by testing his fears — fear of losing his sanity, fear of losing his friend, fear of losing his secrets — but issue 11 test the very notion of fear itself, as Matt is forced to confront his own ego. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing Avengers 39, originally released December 10th, 2014.
Spencer: When you read enough comics, you start to see certain repeated themes and styles emerge among various writers. Brian Michael Bendis is known for dialogue-heavy, somewhat decompressed comics. Kieron Gillen makes no attempt to hide his musical influences and knack for clever dialogue. Geoff Johns loves to rehabilitate long-forgotten or mishandled characters and concepts (and is also a bit infamous for cutting off his characters’ arms). Jonathan Hickman, meanwhile, is probably best known for his cerebral, somewhat detached style of writing that can spend years setting things up before finally letting all the dominos fall into place. With this week’s Avengers 39 we’re getting closer and closer to the end of Hickman’s Avengers epic, but the most interesting part of the issue is the commentary Hickman seems to be making on his own writing style. Continue reading →
Today, Greg and Spencer are discussing Secret Avengers 10, originally released November 26th, 2014. Greg: I studied a lot of television history in college, and there are many similarities between that medium and comic books. Particularly, there’s a notable trend in both mediums from self-contained, episodic units that could be watched and appreciated with no greater context, to highly serialized, novelistic longform works that have identifiable cause-and-effect and require consumers to know their stuff. TV content creators seem to understand this is a primary method of creating and consuming TV now, with binge-watching services like Netflix and Hulu taking storm, and even half-hour sitcoms serializing like crazy (I would not recommend jumping into New Girl halfway through, for example). Comic book creators, however, still seem to try and cater to both extremes of readership; in the case of Secret Avengers 10, they manage to succeed, but just barely. Continue reading →
Today, Suzanne and Spencer are discussing Black Widow 12, originally released November 19th, 2014.
Suzanne: Have you ever looked at your job description six months into a new job and chuckled to yourself? Rarely do expectations and generally-worded guidelines from corporate align themselves with real-life experiences. How about that summer internship when you felt more like a barista than a business student? Natasha Romanova feels your pain in Black Widow 12, as jobs constantly pull her away from her preferred role as a spy. Continue reading →